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Tour d'Afrique: Africa A-Z > Benin - January shared book

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message 1: by Muphyn (last edited Dec 10, 2008 08:22PM) (new)

Muphyn | 816 comments Hello everyone,


not sure if people are still interested in continuing the book club but if so, here are a couple of suggestions for the January reading. Following Angola, the next country is Benin. There's not much out there so if you've got any other suggestions, do let us know!

* Bruce Chatwin's Viceroy of Ouidah
* Robert Wilson's Instruments of Darkness. This is actually the first part in a four-part series.

Last I checked, these books were available through Amazon and/or libraries.


message 2: by Melanie (last edited Dec 10, 2008 06:06PM) (new)

Melanie | 171 comments I am very interested in continuing the book club, I was just unable to get an affordable copy of our last book.

I found two more about Benin that seem available on amazon or at the library:
Show Me the Magic by Annie Caulfied
A Darkening Stain by Robert Wilson

Another thing that we could do to give us more book options would be maybe to combine the choices of two smaller countries?


message 3: by Muphyn (new)

Muphyn | 816 comments Having book choices from two smaller countries is a great idea, Melanie!! (I'm glad you're still interested! :) )

Robert Wilson's A Darkening Stain is actually the fourth part to Instruments of Darkness, which is the first part of the Bruce Medway series. Show Me the Magic looks interesting too! thanks!!


message 4: by Manu (new)

Manu (manuherb) | 166 comments There are few novels which I positively dislike. The Viceroy of Ouidah is one of them.

Robin Law (Images of Dahomey, in Images of Africa, Centre of Commonwealth Studies, University of Stirling, Occasional Paper no. 1, May 1994)concludes, "Chatwin's picture of the lonely old man, betrayed by the ingratitude of King Gezo and desperate to leave Dahomey, perhaps tells us more about Chatwin's feelings towards Africa . . . than about the historical De Souza."

I rather like Chatwin's other work, so this is not just prejudice.

(Robin Law, btw, is the author of Ouidah, The Social History of a West African Slaving 'Port' 1727-1892 - but that's a work for specialist historians rather than novel readers.)

Werner Herzog made a confused movie, Cobra Verde, based on Chatwin's novel. Much of it was filmed in Ghana. See http://www.amazon.com/Cobra-Verde-Kla... for a long review.

This is the first time I've heard of Wilson's novel but from the Amazon reviews it seems to be just another European outsider's view using an African backdrop.

Robin Law also mentions African American novelist Frank Yerby's The Man from Dahomey ("Yerby's narrative of events . . . is avowedly fictitious, but the general picture of Dahomian society which he presents is essentially realistic.") I haven't read it. My guess is that it is out of print.

My strong recommendation is Judith Gleason's Agotime, Her Legend, a difficult but deeply rewarding novel which I've read twice and might read again if the guy who borrowed my copy would return it to me. There are two short five-star reviews at

http://www.amazon.com/Agotime-J-Gleas...

I have such a high regard for Gleason's work that on a visit to NYC I sought her out and persuaded her to offer me a meal at her modest Upper East Side apartment.

Sadly, the book is out of print but there are a few used copies on offer at Amazon. And it might be in libraries.

Here are two links to native Beninois (sp?) authors but I couldn't find any English translations of the works mentioned.

http://aflit.arts.uwa.edu.au/CountryB...
http://www.er.uqam.ca/nobel/r16130/si...

Final thought. Quite by chance I met Olympe Bhely-Quenum at the Paris Book Fair in 2002. Searching on his name, I find Snares Without End (CARAF Books: Caribbean & African Literature Translated from French) (Hardcover)by Olympe Bhely-Quenum, Univ of Virginia Pr (October 1988) In the single Amazon review, Bob Newman writes, "Though the book is far from a literary masterpiece, the first lyrical part is worth reading as an African view of Africa, or the African view of an ideal family and way of life. What is also interesting is the way this Dahomeyan writer presents his society. You can read the famous anthropological works of Herskovits; you can read Frank Yerby's "The Dahomeyan", or Judith Gleason's "Agõtime" or "The Viceroy of Ouidah" by Bruce Chatwin. All these works give an outsider's view of a fascinating part of the world. But by reading THIS book, you can get an insider's view of what all the others described as outsiders. If that interests you, get hold of this book, but don't expect great literature."

My vote is for Agotime.

Manu


message 5: by Katy (new)

Katy | 81 comments I'm still interested in the book group. I wasn't able to participate in Algeria and Angola discussions, though, because I had to get the books through interlibrary loan. The Algeria one arrived after we'd already started on Angola, and the Angola one had a very short return date!

If possible, could we try to keep the selections to books that are in print? Those are easier to obtain, whether through purchase or ILL.

Just my $.02.

Katy G.


message 6: by Muphyn (last edited Dec 11, 2008 03:16PM) (new)

Muphyn | 816 comments Thanks for your suggestions, Manu!! I had a hard time trying to locate even two books for Benin (I realise that Wilson's book was simply a mystery/crime novel set in Benin but I really struggled to find anything), so it's great to have some more options. It's just a real shame that they're all out of print, making it really difficult to read African authors.

Here are links to the bookpages for the books Manu suggested (though there isn't much information, I'm afraid):

* Frank Yerby's The Dahomean
* Olympe Bhely-Quenum Un piege sans fin: Roman - sorry, I could only link it to the French edition but it has been translated into English.
* Judith I. Gleason Agotime

Manu, on a different note - what do you mean by Cobra Verde being a confused movie? I'm intrigued! And... I'm amazed you sought out Gleason and persuaded her to a meal! That must have been absolutely fantastic!!


Katy, sorry to hear the last two book readings haven't worked out for you. My local library has hardly anything on Africa/by African writers but I've also got access to my uni library and their interlibrary loan system and have thus been lucky to get the books.

But access is a problem, you're quite right - I'm not quite sure how to solve it though. Restricting ourselves to include only books in print might result in very small selections ?? Or maybe we combine smaller countries as Melanie suggested ??


message 7: by Muphyn (last edited Dec 11, 2008 03:27PM) (new)

Muphyn | 816 comments Just had a look on http://www.abebooks.com - there seem to be quite a few secondhand copies of Agotime under US$10 available, same goes for Snares without end. For whatever reason, Yerby's book seems to be especially cheap (there appear to be many copies under US$5). I haven't bought anything through them but I've heard they're pretty good and reliable. Just a thought...


message 8: by Melanie (new)

Melanie | 171 comments Another thing we could do is vote now and set a schedule for the next three to six months. That way people could have extra time to obtain and read the books.


message 9: by Katy (new)

Katy | 81 comments Melanie wrote: "Another thing we could do is vote now and set a schedule for the next three to six months. That way people could have extra time to obtain and read the books."

That's a great idea!


message 10: by Muphyn (new)

Muphyn | 816 comments Melanie wrote: "Another thing we could do is vote now and set a schedule for the next three to six months. That way people could have extra time to obtain and read the books."

Yes, I love that idea too!! I think we should do that - would make it easier for getting hold of books, for sure! Brilliant. How about three months to start with (can always extend it to six later if we want)?


message 11: by Muphyn (new)

Muphyn | 816 comments I've just created a poll for voting for the January read, poll ends Dec 16! If there are any further suggestions for Benin, let me know, I'm very happy to add them to the current poll.


message 12: by Richard (last edited Dec 12, 2008 12:54AM) (new)

Richard | 21 comments This book tour is an excellent initiative, and I certainly hope to play catch-up at a later date. Perhaps I'll hop on the bus halfway.

I've posted a short piece about the tour on my blog. Hopefully, it will attract new members and readers to this intriguing Tour d'Afrique.





message 13: by Muphyn (new)

Muphyn | 816 comments Richard wrote: "This book tour is an excellent initiative, and I certainly hope to play catch-up at a later date. Perhaps I'll hop on the bus halfway.

I've posted a short piece about the tour on my blog. Hopefull..."


Fantastic!! Thanks Richard!! And yes, hop on/off as you can, would be great to have your input! I'm off to Europe tomorrow and will try and get my hands on your book then! Would make for a great Christmas pressy for myself. ;)




message 14: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
there are 53 countries in africa i think...and many many many books...i hope Good Reads sticks around and maybe the bus will make a second go-round. my supervisor is quite envious of our Tour d'Afrique and is always interested to hear what we will be reading.


message 15: by Richard (new)

Richard | 21 comments Excellent! Enjoy your trip, Muphyn. Not sure if you'll be able to find an English copy of my book in European bookstores. Your best bet is online in the US. Probably cheaper too.


message 16: by Wendy (new)

Wendy (wendywoo) | 82 comments I definitely want to keep the discussion going even though I did end up flaking on the December selection. If it's feasible to choose books that are in print I think that is a good idea, but I realize that may not be an option every month. I think choosing books for the next 3 months will help people to obtain their copies enough ahead of the discussion to make it more do-able for all. Thank you to all for helping to identify so many great book choices for Benin (a country I must confess that I am in total ignorance about as to its history or current state of affairs). I will do my best to get myself up to speed before the book discussion begins.


message 17: by Muphyn (new)

Muphyn | 816 comments Seems like a good idea then to select books for the next three months! I'll post separate threads with suggestions for Botswana (Feb) and Burkina Faso (March). Many of the books for Botswana are still in print (or haven't been out of print for too long) but not so sure re. books for Burkina Faso.

Thanks for your input everybody!! :)


message 18: by Muphyn (new)

Muphyn | 816 comments Just a quick announcement re. the book for January: surprise, surprise... Agotime by Judith Gleason won!! :) I do hope that everybody who's interested in the bookclub will be able to get their hands on a copy! Good luck and looking forward to a wonderful discussion!!


message 19: by Manu (new)

Manu (manuherb) | 166 comments Muphyn wrote: "Just a quick announcement re. the book for January: surprise, surprise... Agotime by Judith Gleason won!! :) I do hope that e..."
I recovered my copy of Agotime from the borrower and brought it to Cape Town with me, where I plan to read it for the third time. I'm also plan to reread the Dahomeyan section of Harold Courlander's The African. (Courlander it was who obtained an undisclosed sum, rumoured to be more than half a million USD from Alex Hailey, in an out of court settlement concerning alleged plagiarism in Roots. Check my facts: this is from memory.)



message 20: by Wendy (new)

Wendy (wendywoo) | 82 comments I was able to order a used copy of Agotime from Amazon for (no kidding) $0.02. How weird is that? Let's hope all the pages are in the book when it arrives :-) I'm looking forward to some great discussion later next month. Happy New Year to all!


message 21: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
Wow wendy!! And I am glad you will be able to give us your two cents this month!! Ha!


message 22: by Dana (new)

Dana | 25 comments I know a past thread has stated there should be a new thread started for discussing the book of the month, but there isn't one and no activity here. I'm just curious where people are in Agotime? I finally got it from the library and am at the beginning but hope to finish it in the next 9 days!


message 23: by Muphyn (last edited Jan 22, 2009 05:53PM) (new)

Muphyn | 816 comments Dana wrote: "I know a past thread has stated there should be a new thread started for discussing the book of the month, but there isn't one and no activity here. I'm just curious where people are in Agotime? I..."

Hi Dana,

I think some people have already finished it (?) or are currently reading it. I've had it on my currently reading shelf few a couple of weeks now (at least) and haven't even managed to open the book yet. :( But I think as soon as the discussion gets going, I'll be quick to catch up!


message 24: by Marieke, Former guide & Chief Chatterbox (new)

Marieke | 2838 comments Mod
hi dana, i know at least one person has finished it. i just started it the other day but i'm almost done with part 1. if you have questions/comments/remarks as you are reading, feel free to start a discussion but if it has spoiler material, make sure to start a new comment thread that is clearly labeled that it has spoilers in it. some people like to discuss while reading, others like to not have anything to do with discussion until they've finished the book. so we try to make sure discussion threads mind the concerns of both groups of people...


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